This message is for pre-merger Virgin America Flight Attendants
AFA met with the Virgin America leadership team (management) and Alaska Airlines management on Friday, June 2nd in Seattle, WA as follow up to the Virgin America Flight Attendant Work Rule Improvements discussions a month ago. Representing the Virgin America (VX) leadership team: Vice President of Inflight & Guest Services Jeff Butler and Managing Director of Inflight Valerie Jenkins; representing Alaska Airlines: Vice President of Inflight & Call Center Services Andy Schneider; representing both carriers: Vice President of Labor Relations Greg Mays and Managing Director of Labor Relations-Air Elizabeth Ryan; and representing the Association of Flight Attendants: MEC President Jeffrey Peterson, Council 35 VX President Melissa Osborne and Senior Staff Attorney and Negotiator Kimberley Chaput. The meeting was successful, and plans were made to continue discussions on interim improvements in the near future.
Grievance and Arbitration Procedure
AFA and the leadership team agreed to a grievance and arbitration procedure (System Board). Effective June 1st, any Virgin America Flight Attendant who is given a corrective action (discipline) or terminated can have an AFA representative at all investigatory meetings and grievance hearings; s/he can file a grievance, and s/he will have access to a neutral arbitrator to decide the merits of the case if AFA takes the case forward. AFA can also file a ‘contractual’ grievance if management violates any terms of the AFA VX Interim Improvements Letter of Agreement (4/27/2017) or any other signed agreement we may reach in the future.
Virgin America Flight Attendants can now be disciplined only for cause, and management must prove its case—just like at Alaska Airlines. Discipline will still be issued, and terminations will be upheld if warranted. However, having an established grievance procedure will take the randomness and potential unfairness out of the equation. Disciplinary cases will be reviewed and decided based on objective evidence rather than subjective perception.
It is basically the same grievance-related provisions as those reached between the Virgin America leadership team and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) negotiating team. The grievance-related provisions in the TWU VX Tentative Agreement (TA) were in turn essentially identical to the Section (§) 19 Grievance and §20 Board of Adjustment provisions in the AFA Alaska contract.
If you are called into a meeting in which discipline is pending or is a possibility, your supervisor should tell you that you have the right to an AFA representative. If not, please contact your Council 35 officers so arrangements can be made for a qualified representative to be present with you in the meeting.
While many Flight Attendants go their whole career without ever encountering the disciplinary system, a grievance procedure is at the core of union representation. Historically, a grievance procedure is a benefit provided within a collective bargaining agreement. However, AFA has achieved this benefit for you outside of a contract. AFA is committed to collecting no union dues until you have the protections of being covered under a full contract. As a reminder, a full contract must be ratified by a majority of members in good standing. Management has stated that at this point in the merger process, it is shifting focus to achieving a full contract for VX F/As in the context of a merged agreement and an integrated seniority list.
AFA and the leadership team recognize that a large percentage of Virgin America Flight Attendants commute. AFA and management also agree that Flight Attendants regularly encounter difficulties commuting to SFO, JFK and LAX, due to the high probability of encountering delays at these airports. Although sick leave is not directly tied to commuting challenges, management is alarmed at Flight Attendants’ sick leave usage—particularly in JFK—and they are concerned about being able to staff flights. AFA is definitely interested in a commuter policy, and the leadership team is willing to explore a commuter policy if it is mutually beneficial to all parties—and especially if it will improve operational reliability.
AFA advocated that the Company should implement the Get Going Policy established in the TWU VX Tentative Agreement. The leadership team’s concern with the Get Going Policy is that it was agreed to in exchange for enhanced reserve utilization and other items negotiated into the TA. The parties discussed a couple ideas, but management was reluctant to implement a ‘standalone’ (outside of a full contract) commuter policy without fully understanding the impact to the operation. Although we did not establish a commuter policy this session, the parties agreed to do additional research and connect in the next few weeks to continue discussions.
Personal Electronic Device (PED) Policy Update
As you might recall, AFA and the leadership team agreed in the AFA VX Interim Improvements Letter of Agreement (4/27/2017) to implement the Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant Personal Electronic Device (PED) policy for Virgin America F/As. The Alaska PED policy would allow you to use your PED while commuting or jumpseating, and, under stricter rules, during downtime while working. As mentioned in “Council 35 News – May 29, 2017,” the PED policy is located within the VX Inflight Manual (IFM). Any changes to the IFM are subject to FAA approval and must be made in a scheduled revision. The leadership team confirmed the Company is slated to adopt the Alaska PED policy in the August IFM revision.
Relaxing hair standards
AFA continues to advocate for relaxing the hair standards to the Alaska Airlines policy. The Alaska standard is to allow hair to be down when not doing a beverage/meal service and to be secured back during service. The leadership team explained that it needs to finesse the Virgin America brand expectations with regard to Flight Attendant appearance standards and the fact that VX has continuous on demand food service. However, AFA has convinced the leadership team to adopt the Alaska standard. It may take a couple months, but management is willing to go there.
AFA advocated to the leadership team that eliminating the seatbelt crossing and cleaning requirements would be a very welcomed improvement for Virgin America Flight Attendants. Management agreed and has communicated to AFA that the requirement to cross and clean seatbelts will change by the end of the year.
Pass travel and jumpseats
Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Flight Attendants can travel on each other’s jumpseats for pleasure travel or to commute. The leadership team is open to the possibility of adding Virgin America to this reciprocal policy. In order to adopt a reciprocal jumpseat agreement, VX F/As will need to be entered into the Jumpseat Access and Control System (JACS). JACS is the program used to confirm whether an individual is jumpseat qualified. It is anticipated that VX F/As will be loaded into JACS by the time the carriers achieve Single Operating Certificate, which is currently estimated in early 2018. AFA believes that all our AFA sisters and brothers within Alaska Air Group (Virgin America, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air) should enjoy reciprocal cabin jumpseat agreements between all our respective carriers.
AFA and the leadership team agreed that VX Flight Attendants should be able to sit on VX (own metal) jumpseats out of uniform. The parties also agreed that pass riding Flight Attendants should be treated as much as possible like guests (e.g. ability to sleep and/or use the IFE, Wi-Fi or one’s PED) when traveling in uniform (e.g. deadheading and commuting). The leadership team has communicated to AFA that both improvements will be scheduled for IFM revision cycle 4, estimated in October.
AFA sought several additional potential interim improvements. AFA advocated for revisiting items in the TWU VX Tentative Agreement that had been ready for implementation if the TA had ratified. These included but were not limited to the ability to drop below the minimum requirement of 70 hours per month by trading to another Flight Attendant, changes to Reserve rest and mid-sequence & deadhead report times. Management reiterated that it is now focusing on merger negotiations, so the leadership team is steering away from additional ‘standalone’ compensation and/or rule work improvements other than those already discussed.
AFA also inquired about other work rule improvements aligned with the Alaska policies and procedures and discovered that many of them are already pending as the carriers move towards a merged Inflight manual. Most are scheduled for implementation by October. AFA is going to hold off on listing those improvements for the time being because they are subject to change. Once we have more firm details, we’ll pass those along.
AFA is very encouraged by the overall progress so far. Look for updates regarding interim improvements for VX in future Council 35 communications. If you have any questions, contact your Local Council 35 officers.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Linda Christou, Lisa Pinkston, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn, Melissa Osborne, Tim Green and Brice McGee